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Samurai, shinigami, vengeful spirits, and an impossible quest.

4/5 never die

Never Die

by Rob J. Hayes

Purchase Here

“It takes a lifetime of evil to be a villain, and only one moment of good to be a hero.”― 

Rob J. HayesNever Die


The Mortal Techniques novels are a series of stand-alone stories that can be read entirely independently, set in the award-winning Mortal Techniques universe.

Samurai, shinigami, vengeful spirits, and an impossible quest.

The Emperor of Ten Kings has plunged Hosa into war, and the gods are angry.

When the god of death gives Ein a mission to kill the immortal emperor, he knows he can’t do it alone. He needs allies, heroes who will fight for him. How else can an eight-year-old boy hope to do the impossible?

Whispering Blade, Iron Gut Chen, the Century Blade, and Flaming Fist. These are all names of legend. And the god of death has given Ein a way to bind them to his cause. There is only one catch. In order to serve him, they must first die.

Never Die is a stand alone set in the world of Mortal Techniques. It’s a wuxia adventure filled with samurai, shinigami, heroes, and vengeful spirits.

My Thoughts

Mark Lawrence, the author of the grimdark series “Broken Empire,” said this of Rob Hayes’s writing ability, “(he) is one of self-publishing rising stars,” and he is unquestionably right. This story is the epitome of fantasy; it pits dark against light, has epic fighting scenes, heroes that are not quite perfect, and a subtle undercurrent of rye humor. Everything that makes a fun fantasy story.

“She whispered a prayer for those she slain, knowing full well the stars were deaf, and those men didn’t deserve it anyway.

Never Die is centered around Ein. A boy who is not quite right and has been sent on a quest from God, a death God and Ein’s mission to succeed the mysterious and powerful Emperor of Ten Kings must fall. Also, to succeed in his quest Ein must walk barefoot across the cities, mountains, and rivers of the countryside and never don footwear. He must also select champions from myth and legend to fight the Emporer for him, and these champions must die first so that their souls are tethered to Ein.

“I’m not most children he said somberly.”

The champions are where Hayes really excelled in his story writing. Often when reading fantasy characters, an author tends to muddle together different character tropes to be some kind of quasi trope hybrid and usually they are similar from story to story. That isn’t the case here. First of the champions is Itami Cho, AKA Whispering Blade the fastest and quietest warrior in the kingdoms. A spoken word from her can shatter walls and tear apart bodies. Secondly, Emerald Wind is a bandit who is a real self-centered bastard of the story. He is able to blink in and out of existence moving from place to place often popping behind enemies to pierce them through their back. I find that his unabashedly disreputable character is refreshing and adds an excellent counter-balance to Itami Cho because not all heroes are good people. Thirdly we have Iron Gut Chen. He has an impenetrable skin and an impenetrable ego. He needs to consume massive amounts of wine to be happy and reminds me of a jolly sumo wrestler. Lastly, Bingwei Ma rounds out Ein’s literal dream team. Bingwei is the greatest living master of wushu ever to live. He uses no weapons and has never lost a fight.

“Sorry. I am still learning how to use a needle. Flesh is quite different to cloth.”

As you can see, this is a team of heroes not cut from the traditional cloth. Each also has a weakness: one is good but tortured in the case of Ikami, One is gregarious but full of himself in the case of Chen, and you have one that is chaotic with a streak of goodness, buried deeply in Emerald wind. Bingwei Ma does not know how to lose and has never left his valley, his issue is gullibility. During the journey of the story, there is the day to day peril of existing. Not enough food to eat or angry villagers punctuated with bouts of violence and battles. This keeps the frenetic pace of the story plausible and comfortable. Hayes knows as a writer how vital pacing is, that the slow moments in a story are just as important as the wild crazy ones. As these heroes move towards their overall goal of slaying the Emporer, I found myself cheering for this band of miscreants and heroes. Will they succeed in their quest? Will they tear themselves apart first. Can Ein keep the band together through the threat of not giving them a full life again? The questions are answered beautifully in the denouement of the novel. It takes the reader to places that I had no idea where coming. I absolutely loved and appreciated the ending.

I am new to the worlds of Rob Hayes and his wonderful fantasy novels. But I am sure as hell going to stay around and make myself comfortable. If his other books are one-tenth as good as this one is, I am in for a treat. Come for the story of Never Die but stay for the heroes.

Check Out My Other Reviews

Review – Battle Ground by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files #17)

Review – The Ikessar Falcon by K.S Villoso

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Beth Tabler

Elizabeth Tabler runs Beforewegoblog and is constantly immersed in fantasy stories. She was at one time an architect but divides her time now between her family in Portland, Oregon, and as many book worlds as she can get her hands on. She is also a huge fan of Self Published fantasy and is on Team Qwillery as a judge for SPFBO5. You will find her with a coffee in one hand and her iPad in the other. Find her on: Goodreads / Instagram / Pinterest  / Twitter


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